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West Michigan Far Right Watch for the week of October 10 – 18: American Patriot Council, Freedom Marches and Police Apologists

October 19, 2020

Welcome to the next installment of West Michigan Far Right Watch, where we keep tabs on the far right in this area and provide a summary of what they are up to and what kind of messages they are promoting in this community.

We have 2 new examples to share with you this week. The first comes to us from the American Patriot Council. The American Patriot Council has been in the news media quite a bit lately, with lots of people calling for the founder of the group, Ryan D. Kelley, to resign from his position in Allendale Township, because of his connection to some of the suspects in the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. We have argued that the American Patriot Council’s, even if not directly involved in the kidnapping plot, have created a political climate that has demonized and criminalized government officials for their position on the COVID 19 crisis.

The American Patriot Council also has strong ties to the GOP, as we have noted previously, especially the relationship between Sen. Mike Shirkey and Ryan D. Kelley. The American Patriot Council has also not held back on their support of Donald Trump, especially at their rallies. This coming week, the American Patriot Council is calling for freedom marches all across the US in support of President Trump. They are holding one in Allendale on October 24 and another one in Muskegon on the same day, based on the freedom march locator.

It is also important to note that the group Justice for Black Lives will also be hosting an action on October 24th, in Allendale, Michigan, calling for the removal of the founder of the American Patriot Council, Ryan D. Kelley, from the Allendale Planning Commission.

Our second example comes to us from Voice For the Badge (VFB), which we have written about on  numerous occasions. VFB made an October 14 post on their FB page, where they express outrage that the City of Grand Rapids would purchase scouters for the downtown area, while making cuts to the police budget, allegedly. The folks at VFB provide no evidence of budget cuts, when in fact there have been numerous instance in the last month where the GRPD has received additional funding and likely funding, such as CARES ACT money through Kent County.

Lastly, the VFB throws some share on this writer, because I dared to call them out on their politics. Here is what Johnny Brann Sr. wrote:

Last and most definitely/without question- least.  Jeff Smith/griid I must respond even though every letter I type here is a waste of my time.  Following the VFB page and spewing nothing but lies about the VFB and our board.  Just want to let you know that you are a part of the problem in a major way.  You are a complete opposite of the VFB-we work to unite–you work to divide.  Smith-you most definitely do not like law enforcement so DO NOT call them for ANYTHING at ANYTIME.

You will never see his name on the VFB page again. There—More than enough on him.

As is standard with Brann, he provides no clear refutation of my critique of the VFB and he make spurious claims about VFB unifying people, while I divide people. I don’t really see how they unify people, especially after the so-called Unity Rally they held in downtown GR in July.

Brann also suggests that I should not call the GRPD for anything at anytime. The fact is that I don’t ever call the GRPD for anything. In fact, as a member of the Defund the GRPD Coalition, we are encouraging people to not call the cops when there is a conflict, since most of the calls the GRPD does handle are non-emergency calls, based on their own report. A study done by Hillard Heintze LLC, determined that 70% of calls to the GRPD are non-emergency. In addition, one of the recommendations from the study was that the police did not need to hire more officers and in fact, they could have non-police personnel respond to most of the non-emergency calls. 

The VFB, however, is less interested in facts and more interested in angry rants and unsubstantiated claims.


Grand Rapids Power Structure: The People and Organizations that make up Tier 2

October 15, 2020

In 2018, we wrote a 10 part series on the Grand Rapids Power Structure. We then created a visual depiction of this same power structure.

We continue to write about the Grand Rapids Power Structure, as they continue to wield tremendous influence in the political, economic, social and cultural aspects of West Michigan.

It is important to note that the Grand Rapids Power Structure that we have written about is a small group of people, families, organizations and businesses that make up the .01% of the Capitalist Class. However, there are other people, to use the language of the Occupy Movement, that make up the 1%. 

I was reminded of this while writing a piece about the new proposal for an outdoor amphitheater and soccer stadium, which is being promoted by Grand Action 2.0.

In the process of researching the Grand Action proposal, I kept coming across names that I have seen in other places, people who are not the most powerful in Grand Rapids, yet are part of the Grand Rapids Power Structure. These are people in leadership positions with businesses and other institutions that have tremendous saying in what happens in Grand Rapids. We might refer to them as Tier 2 of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, people who are part of the 1%, but are not super wealthy or have their own private foundations. However, if we are to come to terms with how power functions in this city, it is important to name and group these people, which areas they have influence and which entities they represent.

I looked at the following entities – business associations, some  non-profit groups and other institutions, all of which play a significant role in making decisions about the future of Grand Rapids, often decisions that involve using public money, which most of us never know about and have no say in. Make no mistake about it, all of these entities are part of a larger system of oppression, a system which maintains the status quo, creates a larger wealth gap and knowingly or unknowingly embraces White Supremacy and other forms of oppression. It does not matter that these groups might promote diversity & inclusion, these are spaces that benefit from oppression and must be dismantled. 

Here are the entities that I looked at: Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, The Right Place Inc., Econ Club of Grand Rapids, West Michigan Policy Forum, Acton Institute, Talent 2025, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority, GVSU, Spectrum Health, West Michigan United Way, the Downtown Development Authority, 

Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce – Nelson Sanchez (RoMan Manufacturing), Meredith Bronk (OST), Joan Budden (Priority Health), Jeff Connolly (BCBS), Brad Thomas (Progressive AE), William Brennan (Bissell Inc), Beth O’Shaughnessy (Steelcase Inc), Doug Young (Behler-Young Company), Rick Baker (CEO of GR Chamber), Jennifer Baker (Grand Rapids Junior Chamber), Johnny Brann Jr. (Kitchen 67), James Byl (Multi-Automatic Tool & Supply Company), Tom Bylenga (Star Truck Rentals), Alisha Cieslak (Gordon Food Services), Jennifer Crowley (Highland Group), Michael Davenport (Jireh Metal Products Inc), Birgit Klohs (The Right Place Inc), Diane Lawson (GVSU), Lou Moran (Deloitte), Michael Nelson (Amway Corporation), Javier Olvera (Supermercado Mexico, Inc), Ted Vaughn (Tolman’s Wholesale Meats), and  Tom Welch (Fifth Third Bank). 

Right Place Inc. – Sean Welsh (PNC Bank), Mitch Joppich (PwC), Tina Freese Decker (Spectrum Health), Stephen Abbott (JPMorgan Chase), Rick Baker (GR Chamber), Norman Beauchamp Jr. (MSU), Mathew Becker (BDO USA), David Beemer (TerryBerry), Wayman Britt (Kent County Admin), Ronald DeWaard (Varnum Law), Steve Downing (Gentex Corp.), Douglas Dozeman (Warner, Norcross & Judd), Denis Edison (Spartan/Nash), Krista Flynn (Chemical Bank), Anthony Gagliardo (Lake County Govt), John Irwin (Huntington Bank), Jim Keane (Steelcase Inc.), John Kennedy (Autocam), Hyung Kim (Mercy Health, Saint Mary’s), Birgit Klohs (Right Place Inc.), Blake Krueger (Wolverine World Wide), Greg Madura (Alpine Township), Philomena Mantela (GVSU), Michael McGee (Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone), Hank Meijer (Meijer Inc), Andi Owen (Herman Miller), Richard Pappas (Davenport Unn), Matt Paul (DTE), William Payne )Amway Corp), Bill Pink (GRCC), John Porterfield (Comerica Bank), Julie Rietberg (Alliance of Realtors), Garrick Rochow (Consumers Energy), Richard Sorota (Perrigo), Renee Tabben (Bank of America), Jim Teets (ADAC Automotive), avid Van Andel (Van Andel Institute), Mike VanGessel (Rockford Construction), Mark Washington (GR City Manager), Tom Welch (Fifth Third Bank), and Bob Wolford (Miller Johnson). 

Econ Club of Grand Rapids – Tina Freese Decker (Spectrum Health), Stacey Behler (Meijer Inc), Natalia Kovicak (Econ Club President), Bob Wolford (Miller Johnson), Bob Herr (Crowe), Justin Amash (Congress), Rick Baker (GR Chamber), Tasha Blackmon (Cherry Health), Rosalynn Bliss (Mayor of GR), Johnny Brann Jr. (Kitchen 67), Meredith Bronk (OST), Joan Budden (Priority Health), Guillermo Cisnero (Hispanic Chamber), Paul Doyle (Inclusive Performance Strategies), Chip George (Comfort Research), Tim Gortsma (Grand Rapids Griffins), Peter Hahn (Metro Health), Bill Heuzinga (Congress), Lynn Jarman-Johnson (Consumers Credit Union), Lynn Jekkals (AON), Joe Jones (GR Urban League), Sandy Jelinski (Lake MI Credit Union), Jim Keane (Steelcase Inc.), Stephanie Leonardos (Amerikam), Scott Lewis (YMCA), JD Loeks (Studio C), Jeff Maddox (Gordon Foods), Rachel Mraz (Merrill Lynch), Bill Pink (GRCC), Bob Roth (RoMan Manufacturing), Carlos Sanchez (Ferris State Unn), Charlie Secchia (SIBSCO), Kris Spaulding (Brewery Vivant), Kevin Stots (Talent 2025), John Truscott (Truscott Rossman), Mary Tuuk (GR Symphony), Mike VanGessel (Rockford Construction), Mark Washington (GR City Manager), and Donna Zalewski (ITC Holdings).

West Michigan Policy Forum – John Kennedy (Autocam), Jim Dunlap (Huntington Bank), Doug DeVos (Amway), Matthew Haworth (Haworth), Jeff Connolly (BCBS), Michael Jandernoa (42 North Partners), Rick Baker (GR Chamber), Ginny Seyferth (Seyferth PR), Johnny Brann Jr. (Kitchen 67), J.C. Huizenga (National Heritage Academies), Diane Maher (DP Fox Ventures), Dan Meyering (Trillium Ventures), Marge Potter (Continental Rail Gateway, Peter Secchia (SIBSCO), Roger Spoelman (Cure International) and Mike VanGessel (Rockford Construction). 

Acton Institute – Kyle Bode (Kern Family Foundation), Nathan Bond (Rifle Paper Co.), John Crowe (John Crowe Company), Rick DeVos (Wakestream Ventures), David Durell (George Durell Foundation), Nathaniel Fischer (NF Macro), Leslie Graves (Ballotpedia), Frank Hanna (Hanna Capital), J.C. Huizenga (National Heritage Academies), David Humphreys (Tamko Building Products Inc), John Kennedy (Autocam), Kris Mauren (Acton Institute), Michael Muraski (Kent Manufacturing Co.), and Robert Sirico (Acton Institute).

Talent 2025 – Franco Bianchi (Haworth Inc), Leslie Brown (Metal Flow Corporation), Rhonda Huismann (Crowne Horwath), Fred Keller (Cascade Engineering), John Kennedy (Autocam), Bruce Los (Gentex Corporation), Dale Nesbary (Muskegon Community College), Ginny Seyferth (SeyferthPR), Jim Teets (ADAC Automotive), PJ Thompson (Trans-Matic Manufacturing), and Sean Welsh (PNC Bank).

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. – Brian Harris, Stephanie Adams (Friends of Grand Rapids Parks), Rick Baker (GR Chamber), Shaun Biel (Spectrum Health), Rosalynn Bliss (Mayor, Grand Rapids), Mandy Bolter (Kent County Commission), Wayman Britt (Kent County Admin), Kayem Dunn (Consultant), Nikos Monoyios (The Rapid), Birgit Klohs (Right Place Inc.), Eddie Tadlock (SMG), Jorge Gonzalez (Start Garden), Jon Nunn (Grand Action), Mark Washington (GR City Manager), Kristian Grant (GRPS), Doug Small (Experience GR), Richard Winn (Amway Hotel Corporation), Bob Herr, and Monica Steimle-App (Rockford Construction). 

Downtown Development Authority – Richard Winn (Amway Hotel Corporation), Jermale Eddie (Malamiah Juice Bar), Jen Schottke (ABC Western Michigan), Rosalynn Bliss (Mayor, Grand Rapids), Greg McNeilly (Windquest Group), Luis Avila (Varnum Law), Jim Talen (Kent County Commissioner), Kayem Dunn ( Consultant), and Diana Sieger (Grand Rapids Community Foundation). 

Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority – Steve Heacock (Grand Rapids Whitewater), Birgit Klohs (Right Place Inc.), Charlie Secchia (SIBSCO), Floyd Wilson (Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan), Rosalynn Bliss (Mayor, Grand Rapids), Lew Chamberlin ( West Michigan Whitecaps), and Richard Winn (Amway Hotel Corporation). 

Grand Valley State University – Victor Cardenas (Novi City Manager), Randall Damstra (RDV Corporation), Elizabeth Emmitt (Spectrum Health), Susan Jandernoa, Mary Kramer (Crain Communications), John Russell (Consumers Energy), Meagan Small (Deputy City Manager of Wyoming), and Kate Pew Wolters (Steelcase Foundation). 

Spectrum Health – Robert Roth (RoMan Manufacturing Inc), Melonie Ice (Grand Valley Medical Specialists PLC), Dick DeVos (Windquest Group), Tina Freese Decker (Spectrum Health), Stephen Boshoven (Farmers Specialty & Foremost Brand), Steve Ender (GRCC), Daniel Hopp (Whirlpool Corp), Michael Jandernoa (42 North Partners), Mehmood Khan (Life Biosciences Inc.), Gloria Lara (Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance), M. Ashraf Mansour (Spectrum Health), William Payne (BP Ventures), Michael Todman (TMA Limited), Michelle Van Dyke (West Michigan United Way), and Sean Welsh (PNC Bank). 

West Michigan United Way – Robert Kaminski (Mercantile Bank), Bill Pink (GRCC), Mary Command (Williams Group), Doug Young (Behler-Young), Jamykal Badger (DTE Energy), Shauna Bagin (UAW), Ovell Barbee (Spectrum Health), Michael Bohnsack (Bohnsack & Associates, LLC), Renwick Brutus (Achievement Resources, LLC), Khumbo Croft (Gordon Food Service), Tim Duflo (Deloitte), Greg Hahn (Crowe), Teresa Hendricks (Migrant Legal Aid), Kris Kurtz (Metro Health), Terry Lenhardt (Steelcase), Ryan McLean (Bissell), Jamie Mills (JRM Holdings, LLC), Juan Salaza, Gwen Sandefur (Spectrum Health), Yvonne Trupiano ( Spartan/Nash), and Tim Williams (Meijer).

Now, this is not an exhaustive look at the Grand Rapids Power Structure, but it does provide us with a clearer idea of what people and entities make significant decisions about what happens in Grand Rapids – politically, economically, socially and culturally. These groups make decisions with little public input and they often use public money to fund the projects they are making decisions about. 

Since everyone like visuals, here, on the right, is a visual for the people and organizations that make up Tier 2 of the Grand Rapids Power Structure.

Kent County Commission collaborates with Grand Rapids City Commission to redirect CARES ACT funds to the GRPD, while thousands of families in the area are fighting to stay alive

October 14, 2020

There has been plenty of examples of how COVID Relief funds coming from the federal government have gone to bailout the fossil fuel industry and other corporations, while millions of people are unable to pay their rent or provide food to their children.

In Kent County, there was also a significant outcry from the community, when the Kent County Commission gave the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce the power to determine which businesses get CARES Act funding, instead of allowing real community input on how those relief funds could best be used.

Now the Kent County COVID Relief Subcommittee has decided to re-direct CARES Act funding to the Grand Rapids Police Department, in a variety of ways. At their October 8th meeting, the COVID Relief Subcommittee agreed to provide funds for “public safety” expenses incurred in May and June of this year. What this means is that Kent County is providing funds to the GRPD and other area police departments to cover costs due to the uprising on May 30th and the immediate aftermath of massive police presence in downtown Grand Rapids.

In addition, the Kent County COVID Relief Subcommittee has allocated $500,000 to the City of Grand Rapids to cover costs to pay for gun detection technology, which will likely result in the the GRPD having a contract with ShotSpotter. 

The members of the COVID Relief Subcommittee, which is made up of Republican and Democrats from the Kent County Commission, voted unanimously to approve these allocations.

The push to get the gun detection technology was primarily being pushed by Commission Womack (D), who is the the county commissioner that represents the southeast part of Grand Rapids. You can listen to what he has to say beginning around the 28 minutes mark in the video from October 8.

The Kent County Commission will be further discussing all of this at their next meeting on Thursday, October 22nd.

Then on Tuesday, October 13, the Grand Rapids City Commission discussed this matter, particularly during the Committee of the Whole meeting in the morning. You can see in this first slide, that the issue of the “costs incurred” to public safety are listed, with little honest discussion. Let’s face it, there was an uprising on May 30th, where the GRPD and other area cops used force to repress any public resistance, firing weapons into the crowd, which resulted in cops cars getting destroyed. Then in early June, the City imposed a curfew for tow days, brought in the Michigan National Guard and threatened to use violence for ongoing protests against police brutality.

The information on the gun detection technology was discussed during the GR City Commission meeting of the whole, with initial information being presented by Officer David Kiddle, who made it clear that the were looking at purchasing ShotSpotter. His presentation begins at 1:02:00 in the video at this link and in the screenshot below.

Officer Kiddle provides a brief overview of what the ShotSpotter technology will do and how there is an “urgency” to get this technology to address the rise in gun-related violence in Grand Rapids. Kiddle did not acknowledge that ShotSpotter doesn’t prevent gun violence, it only allows the cops to respond more rapidly to where gun shots are fired. Another major omission was how the ShotSpotter technology uses audio and video technology, which also means it provides addition police surveillance of the public, which is highly problematic, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out on their site.

At this point, nothing has been decided, so there is time for the public to weigh in on this matter at upcoming Kent County and Grand Rapids Commission meetings. We have the opportunity to reject more funding for cops and push for any CARES Act funding to go directly to individuals and families that are faced with possible evictions, health care needs and food insecurity matters, just to name a few. ShotSpotter does not prevent violence, but it does give the police more weapons to monitor the public, which is just the opposite of what so many are demanding around police accountability, and more directly through national and local calls to Defund the Police.

COVID cases spike in Kent County: Sen. Mike Shirkey, Herd Immunity and the bewildered herd

October 13, 2020

Last week we wrote a post about the state GOP’s reaction to the Michigan Supreme Court ruling, which determined that Gov. Whitmer had over-stepped her authority during the COVID 19 crisis.

The legal challenge to Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders specific to the COVID 19 crisis was initiated by the far right think tank, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which has received lots of funding from several of the DeVos family foundations over the years, was responsible for making Michigan a Right to Work State, plus they have pushed for lots of other austerity measures and worked to undermine public sector unions for several decades.

On October 10, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, while addressing a crowd at a rally organized by the Pastors Alliance (a group of conservative/reactionary Christian), said this about the COVID 19 crisis:

“I just simply don’t believe we need to continue to have the oppressive mandates that we’ve had. There’s no business that I know of that will put their customers, their employees, their patrons, their families at risk.

Nobody should be misled here or of the opinion that you can keep it from spreading – it’s going to spread, so we just do the best we can. I’m also a big believer that there’s an element of herd immunity that needs to take place.”

When Sen. Shirkey uses the phrase herd immunity, he is essentially saying that a certain percentage of the population is expendable, and therefore allowing them to die from COVID 19 is acceptable.

For a more clinical explanation of “herd immunity”, see the definition presented by the Mayo Clinic:

Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.

Often, a percentage of the population must be capable of getting a disease in order for it to spread. This is called a threshold proportion. If the proportion of the population that is immune to the disease is greater than this threshold, the spread of the disease will decline. This is known as the herd immunity threshold.

What percentage of a community needs to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity? It varies from disease to disease. The more contagious a disease is, the greater the proportion of the population that needs to be immune to the disease to stop its spread. For example, the measles is a highly contagious illness. It’s estimated that 94% of the population must be immune to interrupt the chain of transmission.

Ok, so lets look at the data to make some determinations about herd immunity in Michigan, specifically in Kent County. Looking at the data from Access Kent, we can see that currently there have been 136,465 COVID cases reported in the State of Michigan, with 6,898 deaths. In Kent County (as of Oct. 12), there have been 10,636 cases of COVID, with 169 deaths. There has definitely been an increased in the number of new COVID cases in Kent County, as you can see in the graphic above.

One argument for the spike in case for Kent County is that there is more testing. More testing is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be an argument against any concern for increased COVID 19 cases. Another argument is that more and more of the area has opened up, meaning more businesses have opened, education systems have opened and more and more people are out in public with too many people not taking masks and sanitizing seriously enough…….what we might call a herd mentality, where leaders minimize the COVID harm, so their followers minimize the risks. 

In Walter Lippman’s book, Public Opinion. he referred to the public as the bewildered herd that should be governed by a specialized class of people, since the public was not really capable of making policy decisions, like those centered around COVID 19. Sen. Shirkey embraces the same kind of thinking, as do most politicians, that the public is not really capable of making important decisions about policy.

Now, there is still so much we do not know about this virus, but we also shouldn’t accept the notion that certain lives are expendable, even when we apply the herd immunity principle. No ones lives should be expendable and especially the masses of people who are already vulnerable because of pre-existing health conditions, those who are hurting financially, and those that are also facing horrific systems of oppression like White Supremacy.

American Patriot Council continues their attacks on Gov. Whitmer, tries to argue that those arrested in kidnaping plot are actually leftist plants

October 12, 2020

The American Patriot Council, founded by Ryan D. Kelley, continues to try to distance themselves from those arrested in the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. What follows is an October 9 blog post from the American Patriot Council, a poorly written and unsourced opinion piece. What we will do is provide a deconstruction of this blog post, with their comments in italics and our comments in bold print.

Whitmer Smiles Proudly Amid Alleged Plot to Kidnap and Kill Her – The headline for this post demonstrates their ongoing effort to denigrate Gov. Whitmer, with petty observations about her facial expressions.

Michigan- It was a bizarre scene this afternoon as the infamous Governor Gretchen Whitmer stepped to the podium. All smiles and cheer, a notably happy Governor didn’t seem to notice the irony today, as she thanked the same law enforcement her and her party have been working to defund. Here the blogger provides no evidence that the Democratic Party or Gov. Whitmer has worked to Defund the Police. That’s because it is a false position. The fact is, according to No More Cop Money, Democrats and Republicans have been recipients of major funding from police unions, included among those receiving campaign funding from police unions in Gov. Whitmer herself.

Her behavior only became more strange as she quickly turned a press conference to give information about an alleged terror plot that was foiled by FBI and state police Wednesday night into a negative campaign ad in favor of Joe Biden. Notice that the blogger calls it an “alleged terror plot.” The blogger also suggests that Whitmer’s press conference was a campaign ad for Joe Biden. This is a bit of a stretch. Sure, Whitmer was critical of Trump’s handling of the COVID 19 crisis and his refusal to condemn White Supremacy, but the only other politician the Michigan Governor cited in her speech was Ronald Reagan and in a favorable way. Here is a link to the press conference, so make up your own mind.

The governor spoke about President Trump, strangely accusing him and the accused kidnappers of being white supremacists, in spite of all involved being of the same ethnic background. Ok, so this statement doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and demonstrates that the writer doesn’t understand what White Supremacy is. White Supremacy has little to do with ethnicity, rather it is an ideological framework that elevates Whiteness and those of European descent, for the purpose of dominance.

As the camera zoomed gently in on Whitmer, she made the most of the opportunity to speak out against President Trump. The air in the room was almost celebratory, as if the men had already been tried and convicted. This statement is merely speculative, since Gov. Whitmer was primarily making the point that anyone who threatens people with acts of violence will be prosecuted. 

Many have questions about the case though. Rumors of unorthodox arrest methods and accusations of mistreatment of the mens’ children during the arrests are abound. Others have asked what Whitmer and her far-left cohorts have to gain from the narrative they are spinning. And one glaring question: If these were heavily armed, violent extremists bent on murder, how did the FBI and State Police arrest all of them within a single shot fired? What rumors? Again, so sources are provided to substantiate the claims here. 

It has been widely spread by media and political sources that the men arrested in the federal case were “boogaloo boys”, a group that is called far right by the left, but in conservative groups it is widely believed that they are actually “planted” by the left to defame good, law abiding citizens. At least one of them, Brandon Caserta, was very vocal on social media about his stance as an anarchist, and anti-police, a stark contrast with conservative gun rights activists who are traditionally pro-police. Here the blogger is making false claims about some of those arrested in the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer, suggesting they are anti-police and anarchists. There is no hard evidence, and once again no sources are cited to substantiate the claims.

Other notable suspect was Adam Fox, was seen in a live Facebook video cussing at his young child, forcing him to get his marijuana paraphernalia while smoke a marijuana cigarette, live on camera. Again, behavior not indicative of conservative groups. Here the blogger is attempting some mental gymnastics, claiming that some of those arrested have questionable moral character. Interestingly enough, the blogger names two men, only hoping that readers will ignore the others arrested, several of which have attended American Patriot Council events, provided “security” at those events and others were directly invited by the American Patriot Council or Ryan D. Kelley.

Nobody knows what happened yet, but one thing is sure. These arrests have left many with more questions than answers. This closing comment is weak, demonstrating the blogger is grasping at straws. Of course there are lots of questions to be answered, but there are plenty of questions the blogger wants to avoid, specifically about the relationship between the American Patriot Council and some of those arrested in the attempted plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer.

In addition, the American Patriot Council, on October 10th, posted another blog piece that continues to attack Gov. Whitmer, saying she, “has created a  totalitarian state right in the middle of the Midwest US.”

Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day in Grand Rapids also means coming to terms with Settler Colonialism

October 11, 2020

Earlier this month, the Mayor of Grand Rapids read a proclamation recognizing Indigenous People’s Day. The proclamation was a joint effort between members of the Anishinaabek community and the Community Relations Commission.

It is an important first step in Grand Rapids, for the City government to acknowledge and affirm the original people of this land, and to refuse to acknowledge or celebrate Columbus Day from here forward.

The proclamation is also important, in that it acknowledges the contributions of Anishinaabek people, along with the call to be part of the ongoing struggles indigenous people in this area are faced with.

However, the proclamation does not include terms like Genocide, Settler Colonialism or acknowledge the Euro-America theft of Indigenous land. If those of us who are not part of the Anishinaabek community are to truly celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, it is important that we come to terms with the history of Settler Colonialism in this area.

One important source of information on Settler Colonialism, is Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s book, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. Dunbar-Ortiz does not write an exhaustive account of the ways in which native lands and native people were plundered, rather she gives us the framework for a new narrative how the history of the US. The primary analytical point that the author makes is that the US was founded on an ideology and practice of settler colonialism.

“Settler colonialism has best been defined as more of an imposed structure than an historical event. This structure is characterized by relationships of domination and subjugation that become woven throughout the fabric of society, and even becomes disguised as paternalistic benevolence. The objective of settler colonialism is always the acquisition of indigenous territories and resources, which means the native must be eliminated. This can be accomplished in overt ways including biological warfare and military domination but also in more subtle ways; for example, through national policies of assimilation.”

For Dunbar-Ortiz, we cannot talk about the US, past or present, unless we come to terms with the ongoing legacy of settler colonialism. Such a reframing of the narrative is indeed radical, but it is ultimately necessary of we are serious about how we read and make history now.

Settler Colonialism in Grand Rapids

Using the important analysis of Dunbar-Ortiz, one can see how Grand Rapids is the result of settler colonialism. Indigenous communities existed here for centuries before European colonizers came to West Michigan. This fact is usually noted in Grand Rapids history books, but only enough to merit a few pages.

In Z.Z. Lydens’ book, A Look at Early Grand Rapids, he attempts to portray what happened to the native population as tame compared to other parts of the country. “The history of Grand Rapids does not have a backdrop of conflict with the Indians. There were no tales of raids and scalpings and scourging of the settlement with flame.”

While it is true that the level of violence against Native people, in what is now called West Michigan, was not as overt as was done to other Indigenous nations, the violence was real and systemic. Lydens’ commentary is instructive, since it not only limits any understanding of violence, it ignores how settler colonialism functions.

The reality is that thousands of indigenous people lived along the Grand River prior to the European invasion. Most in these native communities experienced displacement by force, religious colonization, the flooding of their communities with alcohol, and displacement through legal maneuvers known as treaties. There were numerous treaties that resulted in the takeover of Native land by settler colonialists throughout what is now called Michigan (see map above), but settler colonialists have a long history of violation of those treaties

In terms of what this meant for Native people who lived along the Grand River in what is now Grand Rapids, many of them fled to areas in the Great Lakes that in the first half of the 19th century gave them a better chance of surviving settler colonialism.

There is little of this history that is documented by settler colonial historians, but there are glimpses of what some of the consequences were to Native communities and Native culture. For instance, according to local historian Gordon Olsen, we know that many of the burial mounds were destroyed by settlers who excavated the burial mounds to use as filler for other areas of the developing city that had been removed to construct roads. In fact, according to Olsen (A Grand Rapids Sampler) Charles Belknap wrote about this process since as a young boy he brought water to the men involved in the excavation project. Much of the contents of the burial mounds were destroyed, while others were sold to museums or kept as souvenirs by settler colonialists involved in the early development of Grand Rapids. (see map for believed locations of Native burial mounds)

The Law and Settler Colonial Occupation

US expansion at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century required the ratification of legal agreements between the young settler colonial government and Native nations. I use the term nations, because treaties can only be signed between two sovereign nations. This fact, while evident, needs to be restated, since there is ongoing denial about the sovereign status of Native nations and a blatant refusal by the descendants of settler colonialists that the land we current live on is occupied. As Native activist and member of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Lee Sprague, regularly reminds people in his public talks, by saying, “I come from the land currently occupied by the State of Michigan.”

The territory that would eventually become the state of Michigan in 1837, was negotiated through a variety of treaties. (see map above). This series of treaties was signed by the US government with members of the Odawa, Ojibway, and Potawatomi nations. This map below shows the areas of land that were inhabited by the Odawa, Ojibway, and Potawatomi nations.

The primary treaty that impacted what is now West Michigan, was the 1821 Treaty of Chicago. This treaty is significant, since it is with this treaty the process of land speculation and the construction of missions began along the Grand River.

The Treaty of Chicago was the major legal mechanism that allowed White Settlers to purchase and occupy land in West Michigan. However, it is important to note that between 1810 and 1830, when these treaties were being crafted and ratified between the US government and Native nations, the US recognized that the defeat of the British in the War of 1812 meant that England was no longer the primary barrier to US expansion. The primary barrier to US expansion was Native sovereignty.

While the Treaty of Chicago legalized relations with Native tribes in what settler colonialists call Michigan, the US government began to ignore such legal claims in their quest for access of more land. US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall began to interpret the US relationship with Native nations as problematic. Marshall put forth the notion that, “while native peoples are entitled to exercise some range of autonomy in managing our affairs within our own territories, both the limits of that autonomy and the extent of the territories involved can be ‘naturally’ and unilaterally established by the US.” (pg. 9, Perversions of Justice: Indigenous People’s and Angloamerican Law) In essence, Marshall’s interpretation of the law would eventually mean that Native land really belonged to Settler Colonialists and that Native people are simply an obstacle to US expansion. Thus the Marshall Doctrine began a period of forced removal of Native nations, implemented most vigorously by Andrew Jackson.

Therefore, even though there was a legal agreement between the US government and Native nations in Michigan, the expansion of white settlements superseded Native sovereignty. In the Michigan territories, forced removal was nothing like that of what befell the Cherokee nation, but with the assistance of christian missionaries, Native communities would decreased in numbers while white settlers began to slowly take control of the land along the Grand River.

Churches and the Expansion of Settler Colonialism in West Michigan

Before we look at the impact that christian missions had on Native communities in what is now Grand Rapids, it’s important to have a framework in which to understand this history. The United Nations Convention on Genocide  provides clear principles for determining when genocide is committed. It is important to note that their definition is not simply limited to the physical destruction of Indigenous people, but can also include forced relocation and transferring children from one group to another.

In addition, the Genocide Convention provides insight into biological genocide (forced sterilization) and cultural genocide (suppression of language or religion). On the matter of cultural genocide, important questions are raised on the targeting of Native people by christians to convert. Does this qualify as cultural genocide?

We know that hundreds of Native children from the Three Fires Nations were taken and put into boarding schools by settler colonialists, many of which were run by christians. In these instances Native children were denied the right to speak their own languages and practice their own spiritual traditions. Most of the removal of Native children from their communities happened in the later part of the 19th Century and first half of the 20th Century.

However, on the matter of christian missions attempting to make converts of Native communities in the 1820s and 1830s along the Grand River, it is less clear on whether or not this could be defined as a form of genocide. How much free will did Native people have on choosing another religion? Was the adoption of christian beliefs a form of assimilation into the dominant culture and was it tied to larger socio-economic issues like food and land?

It should come as no surprise that right after the 1821 Treaty was signed, the first christian missions came to what is now West Michigan. The Baptist Church established a mission in 1824, under the leadership of Isaac McCoy, and Catholic missions were begun in 1833 by Fr. Frederic Baraga.

One of the things that lured missionaries to the area after the signing of the Treaty of Chicago, was a provision in the treaty which allowed funds for people to work as teachers of blacksmiths amongst the Native people along the Grand River. The government treaty called this, the “civilization fund,” a phrase that underscores the settler colonial mentality.

Isaac McCoy first arrived in 1823, only to discover: “Many Odawa were drinking and few responded to his call for a council. After some inquiries McCoy learned that the majority regarded the 1821 treaty as fraudulent and viewed his visit as an attempt to trick them into ratifying it.” (pg. 7, from Gathered at the River: Grand Rapids, Michigan and Its People of Faith)

Such a statement reflects not only that the Native people along the Grand were not in support of the government imposed treaty, but that many Natives were negatively impacted by alcohol. Alcohol was introduced by French fur traders, particularly Louis Campau and should be seen as another tool used by settler colonialism to control Native people.

McCoy, however, was not deterred from his initial observations and continued to use all means at his disposal to “win over” the hearts and minds of Native people. In 1826, McCoy set up the Thomas Mission on the westside of the Grand River (as shown in this map). McCoy’s greatest contribution during his time along the Grand River was his relationship with Native leader Nawequageezhig, whom the white settlers call Noonday.

Noonday was one of the few Native leaders who signed the 1821 Treaty of Chicago and was viewed by many as a traitor or collaborator with the settler colonialists. Noonday went as far as to be baptized by McCoy’s successor, Rev. Leonard Slater in the summer of 1827. Another Native leader in the area, Kewwaycooshcum, also known as Blackskin, did not sign the 1821 treaty, but did develop a relationship with the catholics through his connection to Campau. It is hard to know from the limited documentation of that time, whether or not the Native people were using the tensions between the various christian factions to their benefit or if the christian were using Native compliance with the government as a means to an end. One gets a sense of the christian rivalry in a comment from Fr. Baraga, who said, “Mary, to who it is given to root out all heresies of the world……to destroy the false [Protestant} teachings with which some of the poor Indians were already infected, and suffer on His gospel to reign everywhere.” (pg. 12, from Gathered at the River: Grand Rapids, Michigan and Its People of Faith)

However, whatever tensions existed, they were most useful in pushing Native people out of the area as more white settlers came to the area. This increase in settlers, along with greater desire for land and settler colonial expansion resulted in a new treaty being drawn up, the Treaty of Washington in 1836. This treaty turned over an additional 13,837,207 acres of land to settler colonialism’s expansionist desires.

It seems that all along, the goal with relations of Native people along the Grand were to take the rest of their land. Whether or not there was direct complicity with the early christian missions to this land takeover is not relevant, the fact remains that they did nothing to resist such an effort.

The end of chapter one from Gathered at the River: Grand Rapids, Michigan and Its People of Faith, states of the fate of Native people in West Michigan:

Keeping title proved difficult, however, as fraud, inexperience, and incompatibility of family farming with tribal tradition took their toll.

It indeed took its toll, but the authors of Gathered at the River do not call it land theft or settler colonialism or even acknowledge the role that early missions played here in the ongoing genocidal policies of US expansionism. The plight of Native people is not addressed in the rest of the book, which simply goes on to celebrate the history of christian churches in Grand Rapids. However, it seems apparent to this writer that the history of christianity in West Michigan is founded on genocide and settler colonialism. We would do well to acknowledge this history to inform how we move forward in the struggle for justice today.

The local news media has been complicit in White Supremacy by providing White Supremacist groups an uncritical platform to promote hate

October 10, 2020

All of the attention surrounding the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer, now has local news agencies scrambling to figure out how this happened…….or so we are led to believe.

The reality is that the local commercial news agencies have failed to public miserably when it comes to the rise of White Nationalists, White Supremacy and all of the hate groups that have been emboldened during the Trump administration’s own White Supremacist policies and rhetoric. In short, the local news agencies have been complicit in the harm perpetrated by systemic White Supremacy and the White Supremacist groups that have been very public since the COVID 19 crisis.

There are lots of reasons why this dynamic has occurred. One main reason is based on how the media functions, specifically around readership and ratings. Commercial news agencies rely on advertising dollars, so they want to attract viewers instead of providing information to the public, which is a necessary component of a vibrant democracy.

Look at what has happened since April in Michigan, when we began to see all of the anti-lockdown protests. The late April protest in Lansing is a good example. We wrote an article that deconstructed on the local news agencies reported on that demonstration, which you can read at this link. Our conclusion from the article stated:

Overall, the commercial news coverage tended to focus more on the spectacle of the protest, rather then offering any insight or analysis of what the protest was really about. In addition, the commercial news sources we looked at failed to mention that in all of the photos and video taken, it was essentially a sea of white people. Along with the whiteness of this protest, the news media also could have made a stronger connection to the message of those protesting, with that of the GOP legislators and the organizations who are essentially pushing for the same outcome……the opening up of Michigan’s economy, regardless of the health consequences. 

We wrote a piece looking at the organizers of the protest outside of Gov. Whitmer’s home in late April. The commercial news media provided these people with a platform without looking into who these people were and what sort of political ideology they embraced. One of the organizers had spent 30 days in jail for election fraud, something the commercial news agencies failed to report on. 

We then discovered a group named the American Patriot Council in early May. This group was the primary organizer of the April 30th rally with numerous heavily armed White Supremacists entering the capitol in Lansing. Ryan D. Kelley was the founder of the American Patriot Council and he and his associated celebrated the armed invasion in Lansing. Kelley had then announced a similar rally was being planned for Grand Rapids in mid-May, which we also wrote about, and made connections between various far right groups and Kelley’s relationship to high ranking Republican legislators. 

We wrote an initial article on the American Patriot Council rally in Grand Rapids discussing what happened, but also providing some background on the speakers.  We wrote a follow up story on May 25th, which took a closer look at some of the speakers and their political ideology, along with taking photos that featured some of the same White Supremacist groups that would be connected to the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. 

In early July we deconstructed a story from WOODD TV8 that essentially provide free airtime to a White Supremacist group known as the Michigan Liberty Militia, who had at least one of their members involved in the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. In that article we wrote: 

This story was a clear example of poor journalism. First, there is no evidence that the channel 8 reporter even bothered to ask substantive or obvious questions that any reasonable person would ask when inquiring about a group like the Michigan Liberty Militia. Secondly, the reporter did not bother to do any background checks on this group or the person they interviewed for the story, Phil Robinson. 

Four days later, WOOD TV8 used White Supremacist sources to discredit anti-racist organizers in Michigan, thus further demonstrating that the don’t investigate sources and that they enable White Supremacist values. 

In August, we began a new regular column called the West Michigan Far Right Watch, to further look at far right groups operating in West Michigan. In our September 10th West Michigan Far Right Watch, we wrote about the American Patriot Council and their plans for so-called Freedom Marches in October. We looked at lots of Ryan D. Kelley’s posts on FB and the American Patriot Council’s own blog posts, which was filled with lots of incendiary language and anti-government statements. 

Ryan D. Kelley has since deleted his FB, which suggests that he does not want to be connected to the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. We wrote on Thursday, that the American Patriot Council and Ryan D. Kelley have fostered a climate of hate and anti-government sentiment, which provides fertile ground for those who engage in acts of terrorism, like the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. 

However, the local news media is just now waking up to the seriousness of many of the groups that have been extremely visible over the past 6 months. Equally important is the fact that the same news agencies have been providing uncritical airtime and commentary to these White Supremacist groups, thus making them complicit in acts of hate and acts of terror. 

Last night, WOOD TV8 ran a pretty weak story about Ryan D. Kelley, who is also on the Allendale Charter Township Planning Commission. The channel 8 story was typical, in that they provided Kelley a platform to dismiss any involvement in wrong doing, instead of questioning and challenging his role in fostering hate and anti-government actions. 

We have to ask ourselves why commercial news agencies, which have tremendous resources, are unwilling to do serious investigative work to inform the public about groups like the American Patriot Council, the Michigan Liberty Militia. Not only have the local news agencies failed to serve the public interest, they have been directly complicit in fostering hate and White Supremacy by providing these groups a platform. 

Sister Ardeth Platte: Warrior for Peace

October 9, 2020

I first met Sr. Ardeth in the early 1980s in Lansing, when Fr. Dan Berrigan came to speak at an event put on by the group Covenant for Peace. Covenant for Peace organized a multi-year campaign to expose and resist the manufacturing of nuclear weapons systems at Williams International in Walled Lake, MI.

After listening to Berrigan speak that night, I was invited by some of the organizers to meet with Fr. Berrigan and a small group of other activists. Sr. Ardeth was one of those in the small gathering. 

(Sr. Ardeth is pictured here in the middle, with the big smile.)

People were having drinks and mingling. I also grabbed a drink and was being introduced to people. At one point I was introduced to Sr. Ardeth, who with a beer in her hand, said she was glad to meet me. I was a bit surprised that a Catholic Sister would be drinking a beer, but then again, I wasn’t raised Catholic and didn’t really know what to expect.

At that first encounter, I found Sr. Ardeth to be a warm and very deliberate with her words when she spoke. I remember feeling relaxed around her, like I could be myself, without having to worry about whether I might offend someone who had taken vows.

After that initial encounter, it would be another two years before I had seen Sr. Ardeth again. By then I had already spent a year in a Catholic Seminary, left and then was part of an intentional community called Koinonia. However, I did receive letters from Sr. Ardeth, while spending 48 days in jail after an action that 13 of us did at Williams International in December of 1984. I didn’t keep those letters, but I remember that her words were filled with encouragement and affirmation of my witness against the indiscriminate destructive power of nuclear weapons.

Beginning in early 1985, I participated in a group study/reflection process with other people of faith in Michigan, all of which were working to resist the nuclear arms race. Sr. Ardeth was part of that group, along with Sr. Carol, her best friend and partner in crime. When I say partner in crime, I literally mean that, since Sr. Ardeth and Sr. Carol were arrested together numerous times over the years, resisting weapons of death.

That same year (1985), Sr. Ardeth and Sr. Carol had organized an action at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan. The action took place on the anniversary of the US bombing of Hiroshima, which I have written about on the Grand Rapids People’s History site.

I did not take part in another action at Wurtsmith Air Force Base again until 1990, since the intentional community I was part of at the time had become a Sanctuary for Central American refugees fleeing US supported state terrorism.

During the action in 1990, people entered the Wurtsmith Air Force base in small groups, which we called affinity groups. I was with a few other people from Grand Rapids, and as we were waiting our turn to engage in Civil Disobedience, Sr. Ardeth suggested that our group should start closer to the entrance to the military base, since we were doing something very different from other affinity groups. We modeled our action after the Mothers of the Disappeared, with images of people (photo below) either killed by US militarism or people who were negatively impacted because the US puts a higher priority on militarism than they do on people. I had a picture of my brother Steve, who had been going to a day program for adults with disabilities, until the State of Michigan cut funding. 

I was arrested that day in 1990 and because I had been arrested before at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, I would likely do months in jail for resisting nuclear weapons. Like the rest of the people who had been arrested more than once at that military base, we all received a letter to appear in court for our hearing, more than a month after the action. I was in communication with Sr. Ardeth and asked her what she thought about me refusing to go to the hearing. Sr. Ardeth was not only in favor of the action, she encouraged me to send a letter to the judge, telling him why I would not be coming. I wrote the letter, and in that I said that since the judge did not acknowledge the validity of International Law as a legal argument for my actions, there was no point in coming, since his court was a mockery of the law.

A few weeks went by and I received another letter, with a new court date. I wrote the judge a second time, using similar arguments, with different wording. A week later federal agents showed up at my door to arrest me. Fortunately, I saw them coming and snuck out the back, while one of my housemates distracted the agents. 

For nearly three months I went underground, moving from place to place, always avoiding the federal agents. A friend of mine who did a show on the public access TV station, did an interview with me about the action at Wurtsmith Air Force Base and my reasons for going underground. Here is that video.

I had only seen Sr. Ardeth here and there over the years, sometimes at funerals for other amazing women, who, like Sr. Ardeth, were part of the Dominican Sisters. However, Sr. Ardeth continued her resistance to injustice, to militarism and to war. Years later she had joined the famous community in Baltimore, known as Jonah House, where she continued to value community and resistance.

So you see dear friends, Sr. Ardeth Platte had a tremendous influence on my own formation as an activist and war resister. Her quiet counsel over the years helped me to take a path that I never regretted. From our first meeting over a beer to her encouragement to take bold action, Sr. Ardeth was an inspiration, a kind, gentle person, and someone who took the words of Jesus to heart by being a warrior for peace. Thank you Sr. Ardeth, for welcoming me into your life!!! Rest in Peace.

American Patriot Council says they only support lawful action, but they have created a climate which led to the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer

October 8, 2020

We have been writing about the American Patriot Council since April, along with one of their leaders, Ryan D. Kelley. 

The American Patriot Council released a statement today, already trying to distance themselves from the failed plat to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Here is that brief statement

The American Patriot Council in no way condones violence as a form of political action. As the public is well aware, any actions taken by the American Patriot Council have been legal and lawful. While we hold the view that many public officials are guilty of a litany of crimes, and it has been our goal to hold these officials criminally responsible, we must do so lawfully.

It has come to our attention that some other groups have allegedly plotted violence and lawlessness, so, we feel it necessary to tell our members, followers, and viewers that The American Patriot Council believes in law and order across the board and that no American citizen should be deprived of their right to due process of law.

We have no affiliation with any other groups, nor will we aid or abet anyone using threats or acts of violence. Please take note that we are on the side of law enforcement. To this point we have not been made aware of any plans of violence and we believe our members and followers to be patriots.

To be clear: The American Patriot Council will report any unlawful activity immediately upon becoming aware.

This statement from the American Patriot Council does NOT condemn the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer, instead it uses language to try to distance themselves from the plot, while simultaneously saying, “that many public officials are guilty of a litany of crimes.”

However, there is plenty of evidence that the American Patriot Council has created a climate to nurture actions like the failed kidnapping attempt of Gov. Whitmer.

Members of the American Patriot Council organized the anti-lockdown protest in Lansing on April 30th, which featured lots of armed, white men that day.

They held a rally in Grand Rapids on May 18, with militia types and Proud Boys in attendance. 

On the main page of the American Patriot Council, it says, Governor Whitmer Lies About 21 Day Continuance of Her Unconstitutional and Illegal Executive Orders, and if you scroll down a bit more it says, Petition to Arrest Whitmer, Nessel, and Benson. 

On the Cases page of the American Patriot Council, it has pictures of Gov. Whitmer, AG Nessel and Sec of State Benson, with the word Felon over each picture. On that same Cases page, Ryan Kelley tells supporter in a video that the FBI needs to arrest Whitmer and company for crimes.

All of these actions have clearly created an anti-Whitmer climate that goes beyond partisan bickering to create a political and ideological climate that fosters hate and violence.

Lastly, the American Patriot Council is coordinating so-called Freedom Marches on October 24th, with several planned in Michigan, with the closest being in Allendale. The possibility of violence, hate and intimidation will be significant at these marches.

With thousands of families struggling with the pandemic economy in Grand Rapids, Grand Action is proposing a downtown Amphitheater

October 7, 2020

Last Saturday, it was reported by several of the dominant news sources in West Michigan, that the people who run Grand Rapids are still working on adding a large amphitheater and a soccer stadium.

The two primary entities involved in this effort are Grand Action and the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority. However, there are several other organizations involved, like the Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., the Right Place Inc. and Experience Grand Rapids. All of these entities are made up of first & second tier members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure.

MLive reported on this story and said that one possibility for where the amphitheater could go would be where Charlie’s Crab sits, including the adjacent parking lot. The MLive article also reported:

The property at 63 Market Ave. is owned by a limited liability company with the same address as RDV Corporation, the DeVos family office. A nearby surface parking lot is owned by the Amway Hotel Corporation.

“It’s too big a parcel and too important to the future of the city to be developed independently,” Frey said of the two pieces of land. “It has a spectacular potential for the next big phase of what this city’s all about.”

Unfortunately, MLive did not contact the RDV Corporation (DeVos-owned) to ask if 63 Market LLC was indeed a DeVos-owned property. I think it is pretty safe to assume that DeVos does own this property, along with the adjacent parking lot. In addition, since Grand Action is involved in this project, that means Dick DeVos will be directly involved.

Equally important is what David Frey (also a member of the GR Power Structure) has to say in the MLive article, specifically that the parcel shouldn’t be “developed independently” and “It has a spectacular potential for the next big phase of what this city’s all about.” 

When David Frey says that this development project should happen independently, what he really means is that those of us who run the city will make the decisions about this project, we’ll donate some money, but we’ll get taxpayers to foot the bulk of the costs to make the amphitheater a reality

When David Frey says this project has a spectacular potential for the next big phase of what this city’s all about, he means that this is what the local power structure wants the city to be about. On the matter of the next big phase, Frey is actually referencing 2016 study that Grand Action had done to look at how to make Grand Rapids a tourism and entertainment destination, something we reported on that year. Unfortunately, MLive failed to mention that the amphitheater and the soccer stadium were not new ideas, but part of a larger plan make more profits for the members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure.

When we reported on the Grand Action tourism and entertainment study in 2016, we made a point about how those plans were happening in the midst of a major housing crisis in Grand Rapids. Today, it would be appropriate to say that the members of Grand Action are planning to get the public to pay for their projects, while thousands in Grand Rapids are still facing eviction, unemployment and food insecurity, all in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic. This is what we call good old fashioned Class Warfare!